CAP reform talks stall in Brussels

26 February 1999

CAP reform talks stall in Brussels

By FWi staff

TALKS between European agriculture ministers on how to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) broke down in Brussels in the early hours of this morning (Friday).

Agriculture ministers walked out after failing to find agreement following four days of negotiations which were stop-go from beginning to end.

The aim of the talks was to reduce the cost of the CAP which, at £30 billion, swallows almost half the European budget.

The original cost-cutting measures, which included proposals for a 30% cut in beef subsidies, were rejected earlier this week.

But ministers were then unable to agree on a compromise paper which was less stringent and would have reduced beef subsidies to 25%.

France was among the countries which rejected the compromise offer, saying that the revised plans were still unacceptable.

The Paris government, which has a strong farm lobby, receives more money from the CAP than any other EU country.

But Germany, which holds the European presidency, contributes the most money to the CAP and wants that contribution reduced.

European Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler had hoped the countries would reach agreement before an informal summit of EU heads of state this weekend.

European leaders are gathering in Bonn to discuss reform of the EU budget to enable the accession of central European counties.

The CAP must be reformed because extending it in its present form to countries such as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic would bankrupt the EU.

The pressure for reform is on because the EU has promised those countries they can become full EU members in the near future.

The agriculture ministers will re-start negotiations again next Tuesday.

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